NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 42


Folk Culture and Graphic Design

Ali Bakhtiari

“Culture is Ordinary.”–Raymond Williams
The word “culture” has always had a positive, yet complex connotation in the Persian language and, although anthropological and cultural studies have tried to push the boundaries of culture in their general interpretations, this word has always shouldered a heavy burden. Naturally, areas of graphic design that are associated with other sophisticated creative sectors such as art, music, cinema, and theater, have been considered the constituents of cultural design, but the influence of popular and prevalent designs on culture cannot be overlooked. In a more general definition, a culture is composed of subcultures with varying effects depending on the size of the target population. For instance, we can compare Ganje Gharoon and Khesht va Ayeneh, both movies produced in 1965. In addition to its aesthetical effect on Iranian films, and the related music and graphic design, Ganje Gharoon influenced the Iranian language and still maintains its influence after half a century. However, only Khesht va Ayeneh is welcomed by elite audiences. The effect of graphic design must be approached from two aspects: its effect on the visual knowledge of the public and its effect on the sophisticated and elite audience. The fine boundary between these two groups is also of the essence.
This approach has extensively harmed the historical reviews of graphic design, and, thus, the designs have been deemed non-cultural and non-artistic, and were omitted from history and historiography. However, the circulation of popular paperbacks, popular performances, magazines, vinyl, tapes and CD covers, graphic designs in television programs, environmental designs, and architectural designs are several times higher than those of the past. The interaction between design and its target audience entails the highest level of visual quality. 
The importance of archives, as resources for reading and examining history, has been stressed in the past and, as a result, history has been explored in a context wider than the conventional context of cultural works. Today, such film posters produced by Mohsen Davalou and Manuchehr Ghazizadeh are as valuable as works by Morteza Momayez and Farshid Mesghali. The novels penned by Arvanaghi Kermani and Amir Ashiri are as important as those of Ebrahim Golestan and Jalal Al-e- Ahmad. The same applies to other popular and artistic bodies of work. These valuable items still need to be extensively researched, however, this is much too time-consuming and complicated because of the failure to document many of these productions.
The 1940s is considered the prime period in Iran for design. At the end of World War II, the speed of production and the popularity graphic design increased thanks to peace agreements and the prevalence of printing technologies. These productions fully reflect the social conditions of their time. This aesthetical stance changed over time due to the impact of social, political, cultural, and artistic events, and because of this fluctuation, it cannot be approached as a linear homogenous phenomenon. The Plakatstil and the Art Nouveau style, as well as reproductions in lithography, pop design, and digital design have influenced this movement. Hence, as a single drop in the sea of pop design, this paper may be the first step towards the reexamination of this historical trend.

Ali Bakhtiari

is a Tehran based curator focused on cultural studies and modern and contemporary art. He collaborated with many international museums and centers such as Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, British Museum, Museo MAXXI and Centre Georges Pompidou. He founded ABBookness project in 2011 which is the first Middle Eastern project collaborating with artist on publication of Artist Books. ABBookness already publishe d works of artists such as Farideh Lashai, Parviz Tanavoli, Parvaneh Etemadi and Ali Akbar Sadeghi.

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